Camp Ax and Tomahawk
Picked up a new Tomahawk, and Fort Ligonier style camp ax. What is the best way to finish handles, and fit them to the heads? I have replaced handles on sledge hammers, and splitting mauls but I want to do these in a period correct manner.
Thanks ahead of time for the help!
Posts: 101 | Location: Davidsville , PA | Registered: 10 August 2016Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Not sure what is the Fort Ligonier Camp Axe, 'hawks come in two basic styles. Either the handle inserts from the top, or it is the more "modern" style where it is inserted from the bottom, and a wedge is inserted from the top into the handle.

If the handle come in from the top, it must flare outward to be too large to pass through the eye of the 'hawk. There are probably several ways to afix a handle. What I do is get a tapered handle for a 'hawk, but these are often coated with a clear finish. I strip this off. Then I sand it down smooth where I will grip it.

OK so then I insert the handle, and tap it into place in the head. You can hold the head by the blade in a vice, and hit the top of the handle with a mallet, driving it tight into the 'hawk head. I've also seen folks simply hold the 'hawk near the blade's edge, and with the handle installed, rap the top of the handle on a hard surface like a rock or tree stum, driving it tighter into the eye of the 'hawk.

Now to finish, I like to submerge the 'hawk head with the handle in mineral oil. Just the head is enough. The mineral oil soaks into the wood and causes it to swell, making for a very tight fit. Some folks say this oil weakens the wood a bit, and simply rely on rapping the handle in tight. Some folks simply soak the 'hawk in water, but I've found that the change in humidity can cause the handle then to shrink and get loose.

If it's like a modern tool handle, I'd make sure it doesn't have a coating. Then I'd get it to fit as snug as possible, then hammer in the wedge, followed by the oil. Again some folks don't like the oil idea.


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Posts: 3843 | Location: People's Republic of Maryland | Registered: 10 November 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Thanks for the info! I have one of each style handle. Will send pics of finished products.
Posts: 101 | Location: Davidsville , PA | Registered: 10 August 2016Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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